Alaska is entering a new climate frontier
Alaska's recent heat wave has been grabbing headlines, and rightly so: The state has been hotter than parts of the contiguous U.S. during June and July.
Driving the news: Anchorage hit 90°F for the first time ever, and the heat plus summer thunderstorms have triggered massive wildfires across the state. An area greater than Rhode Island has burned in just the past 11 days.
But this isn't the whole story.
The big picture: The ongoing heat wave is part of a longer-term accelerated warming trend that is altering life for Alaskans, many of whom live in rural communities dependent on ice and snow cover for transportation and hunting.
By the numbers: The most recent heat has been staggering, but so too is the long-term picture. Alaska has now had its:
- Warmest 12-month period on record, (July 2018 through June 2019) since 1925.
- Warmest 24-month period (July 2017 to June 2019)
- Warmest 48-month period (July 2015 to June 2019)
- Warmest 64-month period (July 2015 to June 2019)
What they're saying: The duration of the heat, plus the shockingly rapid and early disappearance of sea ice from the Bering and Chukchi Seas is most notable, Rick Thoman, a climate expert at the University of Alaska, tells Axios.
Meteorologist Brian Brettschneider said the record heat would most likely not have happened without the overall, climate change-driven warming of the state.
"Weather happens on top of climate. An airmass similar to what we just experienced has occurred several times in the past. What's different now is that the very warm airmass was placed over an environment that has already warmed by several degrees," he told Axios.
Go deeper: Heat wave brings record-breaking temperature highs to Anchorage